The announcement follows a six-year effort to devise and then research encryption methods to significantly increase the security of digital information, the agency said.
The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has chosen four encryption algorithms designed to withstand the hacking of a future quantum computer and protect digital information. This first group of encryption tools will become part of NIST’s post-quantum cryptographic standard, which is expected to be completed in about two years.
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The algorithms are designed with two main goals for when encryption is typically used: general purpose encryption, which is used to protect information exchanged over a public network, and digital signatures, which are used for identity authentication. NIST said all four algorithms were created by experts from multiple countries and institutions.
The first group of algorithms
For general encryption: Used when visiting secure websites, NIST has the CRYSTALS-Kyber algorithm. Among the advantages are relatively small encryption keys that two parties can easily exchange, as well as the speed of work.
For digital signatures: Often used to verify identities during a digital transaction or to sign a document remotely, NIST selected the three algorithms CRYSTALS-Dilithium† VALK and SPINCS+† Reviewers cited the high efficiency of the first two, and NIST recommends CRYSTALS-Dilithium as the primary algorithm, with FALCON for applications requiring smaller signatures than Dilithium can provide.
SPHINCS+ is slightly larger and slower than the other two, but it’s valuable as a backup because it’s based on a different mathematical approach than all three of NIST’s other selections, the agency said.
Three of the selected algorithms are based on a family of mathematical problems called structured grids, while SPHINCS+ uses hash functions. The additional four algorithms under consideration are designed for general purpose encryption and do not use structured grids or hash functions in their approaches, NIST said.
All algorithms are available on the NIST website†
This is “an important milestone in securing our sensitive data against the possibility of future cyber-attacks from quantum computers,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement.
Quantum-resistant algorithms will help create a standard
The announcement follows a six-year effort by NIST, which in 2016 called on cryptographers around the world to devise and then vet encryption methods that could withstand an attack from a future quantum computer more powerful than the relatively limited machines available. Today. The selection is the start of the final of the agency post-quantum cryptography standardization project†
“When built, quantum computers powerful enough to break current encryption will pose a serious threat to our information systems,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio said in a statement. “Our post-quantum cryptography program has used the top people in cryptography – worldwide – to produce this first group of quantum-resistant algorithms that will lead to a standard and significantly increase the security of our digital information.”
Four additional algorithms are being considered for inclusion in the standard, and NIST said it will announce that round’s finalists at a later date.
Because there are different systems and tasks that use encryption, a useful standard would provide solutions designed for different situations, use different approaches to encryption, and provide more than one algorithm for each use case in the event that one turns out to be vulnerable, he said. NIST.
Encryption uses math to protect sensitive electronic information on secure websites and emails. Widely used public key encryption systemsrelying on math problems that even the fastest conventional computers find unmanageable make these websites and messages inaccessible to unwanted third parties, the agency said.
However, a sufficiently capable quantum computer, which would be based on different technology than today’s conventional computers, could quickly solve these math problems and beat coding systems, NIST said. To counter this threat, the four quantum-resistant algorithms rely on math problems that would be difficult for both conventional and quantum computers to solve, protecting privacy both now and in the future, the agency said.
To get involved in developing guidelines for migrating to post-quantum cryptography, go to NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence project page†